Day of the Dead or Dia de Muertos is the Mexican equivalent of Halloween only much bigger, brighter and, best of all, longer.
Traditionally, the festival was celebrated in central and Southern Mexico with families gathering to remember those who have passed. It’s roots originate back to the indigenous Aztec people who saw death as an extension of life – just continuing on another plane!
Now, it is no longer confined to Mexico. Adaptations of it can be found around the globe. Who hasn’t seen the brightly coloured skulls and paraphernalia surrounding this event ?
The popularity of this festival means it is being celebrated, in various forms, in the U.S, Europe, parts of Africa, Brazil, Spain and many other countries.
However, although this festival begins on October 31st, the similarities between it and Halloween end there. With Dia de Muertos, death is something to be celebrated, not feared.
Traditions connected with the holiday include building altars and shrines called Ofrendas to honour the deceased. These are elaborately dressed and decorated with religious symbols, candles and buckets of colourful Marigolds.
The food is also colourful and plentiful with tables groaning under huge breads known as Pan de Muerto, tortillas, hot cocoa and water as an offertory to the weary spirits. It is thought that by doing so, the ancestors and spirits of the departed will grant abundance, good luck and protection to the family. Cardboard skeletons and decorations made out of tissue provide the finishing touches,
Relatives also visit graveyards to have vigils where they fix up the graves. They take various offertory including gifts, photos and other memorabilia alongside favourite foods, cigarettes and beverages – which apparently often includes Tequila for the adults! Again, it is believed that the deceased eat the spiritual essence of these foods.
This said, it is by no means a dour occasion. Participants often recount amusing stories, anecdotes and formulate poems about their deceased. Rather than being a macabre celebration of death, it becomes a celebration of life itself.
To this end, there are parties in houses and the streets, where people drink and dance sporting Calavera – skull masks or masks of the Devil, their faces made up in fabulous colour. Everywhere there are skulls. The elaborately decorated sugar skulls – made from sugar or chocolate are everywhere and now famous world-over.
Perhaps you too can join in this celebration Dia de Muertos by joining us on November 1st at the Dark Carnivale.
There’s certainly plenty of costume inspiration to be taken from the beautiful festival of Dia de Muertos.